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May 2, 2013

Server snafu steals state testing time

CHICKASHA — Problems with the company running state assessment tests have caused a mess at Chickasha Public Schools, as exam schedules are being revamped and taking students away from valuable instruction time.

Monday and Tuesday, servers for testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill went down and caused students to be kicked off of their exams, delayed others from taking theirs into the afternoon, and totally erased completed tests from the system. Approximately 50 students in Chickasha schools will have to retake tests invalidated by the server glitch. Similar problems have infuriated thousands of students, educators, and parents across Oklahoma, Minnesota and Indiana.

“There’s just no rhyme or reason,” Robyn Morse, assistant superintendent at Chickasha Public Schools, said. “On Monday, it was sporadic, but more were kicked off than were not. But on Tuesday, it shut everyone down.”

Now, instead of retaking exams on computers, students will use the traditional paper-pencil method starting Monday. The server problems could not have come at a worse time, with the testing window for third through eighth graders running out this Friday. The Oklahoma Board of Education has had to extend the deadline and allow testing on Monday and Tuesday of next week, while high school End of Instruction tests can be turned in as late as May 14.

Despite the concessions, Morse said the damage has already been done for Chickasha schools.

“We had a very tight schedule for testing, and we’ve had to completely revamp it,” Morse said. “We essentially test until the end of the year, because after we finish state testing, advanced placement exams begin.”

Sixth and Eighth grade math tests will have to be retaken on Monday using the traditional method, while high school geometry and algebra II exams will be retaken on computers the same day.

Also, students who have to retake exams lose that time they would have had in the classroom learning more material, Morse said.

This is the first year CTB/McGraw-Hill has been used by Oklahoma schools as part of an $8.9 million contract. Last year, Pearson ran the exams, but problems with that company led state officials to seek a new tester.

“We had a couple of issues last year, but it was nothing like what we’re seeing this year,” Morse said.

After Monday’s glitch, McGraw-Hill had assured the state the problem had been fixed, but it resurfaced Tuesday causing more widespread disruption. Morse said she heard no reports of problems with testing at Chickasha schools on Wednesday. Some state lawmakers have asked for testing to be suspended until the issues are completely resolved.

Parents concerned about their child’s test can contact their school’s respective principal, Morse said, at Lincoln Elementary (222-6522) Chickasha Middle School (222-6530) or the High School (222-6550).

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